Photo - Pia Johnson
Richard Gill is a man to behold. His fiery passion and enthusiasm are tangible... and very catching! In just its fourth year of operation, the Victorian Opera performed to a full-house in the Hamer Hall for its 2009 Gala Concert – Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Bartók’s one act opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, based on Charles Perrault’s well-known fairytale, is a wildly sinister tale of mystery and intrigue. Duke Bluebeard (Andrew Collis) takes his newest wife, Judith (Lecia Robertson), to his dark fortress where she discovers the gruesome murder which has come to her husband’s previous wives, and her own inevitable fate. Heavily weighted with symbolism, the libretto questions the power of love to overcome an individual’s isolation. Bartók’s score is beautifully controlled in its expression, awakening the imagination with its subtle yet vivid orchestral palette.
In wonderfully complementary contrast, Orff’s cantata Carmina Burana is a robust and earthy exploration and celebration of life. Divided into three parts – the first dealing with nature, the second with life in the tavern, and the third with love – the cantata is famous for its memorable melodies and stirring rhythms. Most people will be familiar with the opening chorus ‘O Fortuna’ – perhaps associating it with one of the many products (Carlton Draft, Nescafé, and Pringles, to name but a few) that it has been used to promote.
Orchestra Victoria, under the direction of Gill, created a wonderful dreamscape for the audience to explore and revel in. The contrasts between the compositions and their orchestral palette’s were executed superbly - the orchestra carrying the audience from the depths of Bartók’s subtle suspense to Orff’s unadulterated brilliance.
Collis and Robertson gave commendable performances in Bluebeard’s Castle, but at times their voices and expression were lost beneath the force of the orchestra. Joanna Cole, Tobias Cole, and Gary Rowley each performed with great skill as soloists in Carmina Burana. Rowley’s animated characterisation was particularly enjoyable to see in the concert format.
The highlights of the concert were the powerful, climatic choruses performed by the Victorian Opera Chorus and the National Boys Choir of Australia. The rapturous applause showed that it truly was a gala event that celebrated both the darkness and the brilliance of life, and the magical power of opera to express it.
Conductor Richard Gill
Venue: the Arts Centre, Hamer Hall
Date/Time: 21 February 2009, 7.30pm
Bookings: Ticketmaster or call 1300 723 038